Sunday Worship from the
United Reformed Church’s Daily Devotions
5th July 2020
The Rev’d Ruth Browning
Good morning, welcome to our worship this morning. My name is Ruth Browning and I am speaking to you from our home in South Gloucestershire. At the time of recording I have no idea if when you hear this we will still be in an eased form of lockdown or a tighter one and we, the Church, haven’t had any notices for weeks. So here are the notices:
· Conversations will not be cancelled.
· Relationships will not be cancelled.
· Love will not be cancelled.
· Songs will not be cancelled.
· Reading will not be cancelled.
· Self-care will not be cancelled.
· Hope will not be cancelled.
Call to Worship
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain, and heals our wounds.
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us. May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
Hymn Let Us Build A House (Marty Haugen)
where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints
and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive;
built of hopes
and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ
shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.
2 Let us build a house
where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children
dare to seek
to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the Cross
shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim
the faith of Jesus:
3: Let us build a house
where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured,
taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
Prayer of Approach
Loving God, we come, to be still before you: to rejoice in the glories of your supreme holiness, to seek the mind of Christ and the wisdom of the Spirit. Within the wonders of your unconditional love: we gather to delight in the miracle of your presence.
We come, to be still before you: but you welcome us to this act of worship and call us to praise and movement, singing and prayer.
We praise you that the world dances before you – in summer sun and flowing sea; in blowing wind and running wave; in birds and insect flight; in petal fall and growing fruit. All things dance – Lord, may we.
We give you thanks that though we were burdened and wearied by sin, and unable to dance to your song, in gentleness and humility your Son Jesus has lifted our burdens and shows us the way of wisdom. Within the majesty of your gracious generosity: we honour and revere for all that is good, we praise you. For all that is mysterious, we trust you.
For all that is wonderful, we stand in awe. Amen
Prayer of Illumination
As the burden of social distancing and separation becomes increasingly stressful may the light of your word lift this yoke from us. May the light of your word be in our greetings with all whose paths we cross so that their burden is eased and lightened. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
St Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Hymn: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Horatius N Bonar (1808-1889)
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.
2 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched,
my soul revived,
and now I live in him.
3 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise,
and all your days be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk,
’til trav’ling days are done.
It’s always a “can’t win” situation or if you prefer it’s “lose-lose.” For Jesus and John it must have felt “whatever I do I’ll never win” – so very different in their behaviour but neither of them could win. John’s invitation to repent and mourn the past might have been overridden by Jesus invitation to joy and yet both where criticized. At times it must have felt to both that they’d have done better to have copied the behaviour of the the other. Yet, if you are not made like that it’s a heavy burden to behave that way.
How rapidly things have changed this year. Until, about, April, we were told “the churches are shrinking and closing; no one wants religion any more” yet at the same time it seemed people were saying they are spiritual – they didn’t want religion but they wanted spirituality. I have heard of those who shouldered any number of rites and rituals thinking this would somehow make them more spiritual or better people. Anything. From this or that kind of diet or morning or evening routines, to the point where it becomes onerous to keep it up – but they still do and wonder why they are stressed and their lives are unravelling around them.
In January I listened goggle-eyed at someone’s description of helping people get out of the wrong way of sticking to the 5 / 2 diet. They had been eating everything in sight for 5 days then nothing at all for 2. We talked about the spirituality of fasting – which can be a heavy burden, if you try to go for a lengthy period without knowing how to build up to it. My friend didn’t think the group she had met with would be prepared to listen to advice about dieting in terms of spirituality and couldn’t think how to put it in other terms.
But now? Since April we are told about the numbers, around the world, who tune into broadcast or streamed worship, those who listen or read daily prayers are increasing. There is a need and we have moved from being the children playing in the market place calling out “what do you want?” to scrambling to give people what they now ask for.
These days of course it’s not fashionable to talk about being heavy laden or burdened with something. I don’t even know if a yoke is known or the idea of being yoked is understood in an urban context. I have noticed that modern translations have a footnote explaining what a yoke is.
Now, you say you are stressed – same thing. A year ago we were stressed by the speed of modern life and the many demands it makes on us, living in a 24hr society not supposed to sleep for long enough to rest from burdens and the stress of carrying them. This year many are stressed by having too much time, separated, distanced from the ones we most want to be with. In contrast with frontline workers, nurses and carers, doctors and researchers, continually stressed by having no answers and human wisdom has so far failed to provide them.
Jesus says “my yoke is easy and my burden light” … notice that as Matthew has recorded the conversation this comment closely follows the statement “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” This is Jesus’ reassurance that if we are wise enough to stop being contrary children then we will find the peace he promises. The contrariness of human nature isn’t overcome by this or that diet or morning or evening routine. No matter how much we know it is always inadequate. What are we going to do? Oddly and unexpectedly, in the way no one wanted anymore, the old fashioned way, there is less stress.
As Jesus says “Wisdom (the one with the capital W) is vindicated by her deeds”. God never speaks about this or that diet as the way our of all your problems or this and other routines as being helpful to relieve stress. The way for those who love God vindicated, or if you prefer, confirmed by her deeds, can’t be taught by human wisdom as it is given by God’s Spirit to those who walk his way. If we would be like Christ then we rest in the will of the Father and learn the lighter burden of loving God and seeking the mind of Christ. May it be so.
Hymn: Will you come and follow me / The Summons
John L. Bell and Graham Maule
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
2: Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare,
will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?
3: Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
through my sight & touch & sound
in you and you in me?
4: Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love & footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
As we affirm our faith so we bring our thank offerings to God: Creator God, we have no gifts to give you except the things you have given us. Accept these gifts and with them take our love and our lives, for your work. Amen
Prayers of Intercession
Creator God, it is not a heavy burden to bring to you all out thoughts and cares and worries. You lift all burdens and replace them with the lighter burden of knowing we can leave them with you. O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
We pray for our families, friends, and this congregation, the church.
We pray for all throughout the world carrying heavy burdens of grief and who are weary and stressed. O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
We pray for those whose jobs have disappeared never to return and are worried what will the future bring. For those who unexpected find a way forward, maybe off the streets or out of gangs. Lord, these are strange times. O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
We pray for those caught in storms or drought as our never quiet world changes, thinking too, of those we are still growing crops and wondering how harvesting will take place. We pray for those packing our food; for those who transport it. O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
In this month which includes Sea Sunday we think of the crews of bulk carriers and container ships, of tankers and cruise liners. O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
May we bear one another’s burdens so that all may share in the liberty of God’s loving kindness and live with one another in peace. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: Lord You have Come to the Sea Shore
Fr Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991)
Lord, You have come
to the seashore,
neither searching for
the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.
with Your eyes set upon me,
You have spoken my name;
all I longed for
I have found by the water,
at Your side,
I will seek other shores.
see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat You find
no power, no wealth.
Will You accept, then,
my nets and labour?
take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself
in seeking the lost,
returning love for
the love You gave me.
4: Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting place
of my restless heart,
my life’s companion,
my friend and refuge.
Our service has ended.
Now may grace, courage, and a quiet mind
and all such blessings as are fitting for the children of God
be with us all, today and forever.
Sources and Copyright
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston) all other liturgical material by Ruth Browning. Opening “notices” from a 3/15/2020 blog post written by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the non-profit “To Write Love on Her Arms,” twloha.com
Organ Pieces Opening: Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Closing: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016) Both played by Brian Cotterill. http://briancotterill.webs.com
Let us Build A House by Marty Haugen (b1950), I heard the voice of Jesus Say (Horatio Bonar Law) and Will You Come and Follow Me? by John L Bell and Graham Maule all recorded by the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Lord You have Come to the Sea Shore written by Fr Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991) translated by Robert Trupia performed by Orchard Enterprises.